With the thick smoke as cover, she made her way across the street to the large building where the wall on the first floor had long since collapsed in.

There remained the constant background noise of battle. Nothing close, though she kept her strides long and rapid. With one leaping step Maho sped made the height onto the raised first floor, and right into the bore of a rifle.

"Hold your fire!" A sergeant said as he approached the ready sentry motioning him to lower his rifle. He then turned towards her.

"Lieutenant."

Relieved she returned the salute.

With another sentry as a guide she was then taken to the second floor where the unit's CO was located on a makeshift first aid station with a bullet lodged within his leg. It didn't take her long to discover the unit to belong to the battalion neighboring her own.

As expected though after answering the officer's questions to explain the situation of her and her men, the lieutenant between grunts of pain as his wound was sewn shut made things clear. He would have no ability to find the whereabouts of just two men from among many that have become either lost or misplaced following the recent counterattack.

However, he was gracious enough to give Maho a good place to start, the regimental hospital. He then mentioned that while a number of files would have to be filled out for this type of situation, given the amount of disorganization that the entire division was currently in, he saw no reason to not just let her go to where she needed to.

Grateful for his assistance, Maho thanked him for his help before walking back down the stairs to the nearest exit on the other side.


Nonna sat there in the dimness of the empty room she was left in.

Her thoughts could only be described as an absolute mix up of what she could closest recall being that of confusion and frustration. She hoped at first that the conversation she had with the German lieutenant would clear thing up and give her some sort of understanding of the situation that she had found herself wake up in the middle of. But with every attempt to get clarification, no matter what she had used to get to understand the mysterious young woman who in all intents and purposes should have never even met in the first place, all she got in return were redirections and an ever greater depth of confusion than she had ever before.

She wanted to hate her for that. Oh how she wanted to. But as much as she tried to do so, she just couldn't seem to be able to do so. 'Why did she save me… What did she mean by complicated. Gyaa! It like she'd been purposefully trying to mess with my mind.'

She knew she had to leave. She had tried to get up a number of times, her feet however felt as though they were encased in lead. The sofa felt comfortable despite its rugged condition, and her eyes began to feel heavy. After such a day, as early as it still was, a light sleep would be nice…

Beyond the room came the creak of a neglected hinge. Someone had opened the side door.

She moved up from her spot upon the couch. She doubted her chances at defending herself with only her bayonet available. The front door however was just to the side of her.

She just had time though to turn towards its general direction when she heard a thud behind her.

Nonna turned back to face it.

A helmeted soldier entered the room with his submachine gun at the ready. Unkept and ruggedly dressed, he was definitely one who had seen his share of fighting.

He pointed his firearm in her direction for a second before lowering it back down again.

She curtly nodded her head in the soldier's direction

"Hello comrade sergeant."

Relieved at the sight of a fellow soldier. He quickly returned the gesture.

"Comrade. I couldn't help but notice the neighboring building crawling with Germans without another fighting Russian other than yourself anywhere nearby."

Not wanting to remain close to the front window, draped or not. Nonna lightly strode closer to him.

"There are some riflemen in the area. I haven't seen them; but they let themselves be known at times. I was actually about to leave to locate my unit."

"Well then, it looks like we are in the same situation then." He curtly nodded his head while still remaining a respectable distance. "Junior sergeant Yaroslav. 42nd rifle brigade."

"Corporal Pravda. 42nd regiment, 13th Guard."

Yaroslav smirked after hearing the name of her unit. "I hadn't heard that 13th was even in this area, let alone here in the city. News don't get around very well you could imagine."

"You wouldn't happen to know where we are than, would you comrade sergeant?"

Unbuttoning his pocket, the older man brought a small folded paper that he then opened out in front of her. "I don't know how much this map will help us with that." He paused as he scanned over it before pointing to a particular spot on the edge of an illustrated gully. "But I believe we are here. If we cut across that gully behind us. We should start running into units any newly arrived units from the ferry landing."

He then looked back towards her. "You know how to shoot a rifle?"

Nonna looked at him confidently. "Not that long, but I feel proficient in it."

"Here then, you'll need this more than I do." Reaching for a sling over his shoulder, the man held out a rifle towards her.

"Thank you comrade sergeant."

"No problem. Comrade Guardsman!"


The hospital was an abandoned store building a kilometer and a half from where she was. Maho was told it would take her half an hour at least to get there without a ride. She made it in less than half that time.

The greeting pile of bodies by the front entrance left a slightly sickening feeling in her stomach as she walked towards the mass of moans and screams coming from within.

In some rooms the amount of wounded men were so great without aid that traversing them had been a slow and difficult process; in one such room one of the men standing next to her nearly slipped onto the floor as he walked past a leaking lavatory bucket. The smell of disinfectant was enough to make her nostrils burn.

The distinct difference between the gray and black uniforms of the infantry and panzer troops did make things much easier though. Within one of the larger rooms in the building among a number of other new arrivals she was able to find the last two members from her unit.

"Lieutenant!"

Having seen her not long after herself he stood right up and literally raced up to her side. The look of worry was etched all over his face though her presence had somewhat brought a softening in his features. Maho however could not say the same herself at the sight of her loader standing alone.

"How's Muller?"

Karl turned back to the direction where the young operator was laying.

"We've been here for the last half hour. They got him good lieutenant; he's in bad shape." Leading the way, Karl kneeled back down besides where Muller with Maho by his side.

"Lieutenant…" The look in Muller's face lightened up at the sight of her as he attempted to sit up.

Maho immediately gestured him to lay back down.

"Shh! Don't over exert yourself. You need to conserve your energy." Turning over she then diverted her attention towards Karl."

"Has anyone seen to him yet?"

"No. They said the doctors have been working for the last several hours strait. Though the line only appears to be getting longer than anything else." The frustration in his voice was very noticeable, just as much as the same feeling that was quickly growing in her mind for much the same reason.

"Wha-what happened lieutenant?

Maho looked to see both of Muller with a look of curiosity and concern.

"I had to take a few… detours." She saw the worry in his eyes. "Don't worry though. There wasn't ever anything too hazardous along my way. Didn't take me to long to lose them, and stopped at a few areas to wait things out when I needed to." She then turned towards Karl by her side.

"Corporal, how was the situation with you and Muller following my departure?"

Karl slightly lowered his head in thought. "No one followed us after you left us. Though we did nearly run into another squad dug in near the front lines. Took us awhile to sneak our way around them."

"Lieutenant?"

"Yes?"

"I… I have something-" "Hold up!"

Raising up his hand in front of Muller, Karl motioned to silenced him in mid-sentence. "There's one of them finally showing up." She turned to see Karl gesturing towards who appeared to be a medical assistant sorting through the growing number of new arrivals.

"Hey! You! We've been waiting for someone to show up awhile already."

Nodding in their direction the other man quickly exchanged a few words with another casualty before starting over towards them. His uniform and apron was completely covered in blood along with his hands and face. As he approached Maho could clearly see his eyes bloodshot and his posture slouched over greatly.

He kneeled over opposite of the wounded operator from the two of them before beginning to look his wounds over.

"What's the situation?" His tone was exhausted yet still attempting to maintain a sense of professionalism.

"WHAT'S THE SITUATION?! ISN'T THAT YOUR-" The sight of the back of Maho's hand in front of his face silenced the loader though she continued to face the assistant.

"Gunshot wounds to the upper right leg."

"Okay. Mind helping me turning him over on his side?"

Taking care to cause as little pain as possible, the two of them moved Muller onto his side at allow the technician better access as he cut open the pants around the area..

It looked much worse than either of them had thought before. Much of the flesh below his hip was exposed around the jagged exit wounds, and his trousers had become completely drenched in blood despite the makeshift tourniquet Karl had wrapped around it as soon as he could.

Maho watched as the assistant was fixed solely upon the inflicted area in a scrutinus gaze.

"Is everything alright?"

Muller's voice was strained and winded. Not long after though, the man finished his observation and turned over towards where Maho sat.

"May I have a word with you lieutenant?"

Karl immediately spoke right out as Maho was about to start standing up.

"No! Whatever it is, as long as it affects his condition, then he should all hear what you have to say about him!"

"Fine then. I'm sorry, but there's nothing we can do for him!"

All of the color in Karl's face drained out as he tried to formulate words in refute that only came out in stutters. At the same time, with a loss for words, Maho could feel a shiver race up her spine following the man's statement.

"He's lost a lot of blood. If one of the bullets gone a few millimeters to the left, he would have bleed out before he even knew what happened. Had you gotten him here sooner we could have done a proper procedure to stop the bleeding. However."

"Yes?"

"We used up nearly everything we had today. There's just nothing more we can do for him."

From several cots over the strained cries from another wounded soldier had become louder.

Seeing it, the medical assistant turned to see to the patient.

"I have to move on."

Turning back to her crew, she could see the burning rage in Karl's eyes directed towards the receding assistant.

"I have…a favor to ask...of you."

Karl leaned closer over the young operator a quivering smile threatening to break at any moment.

"Yes Muller?"

Reaching into his jacket pocket, Muller opened his palm to reveal a small preserved Edelweiss.

"…I picked it right before leaving home…nearly took half a day to find it. I never had the courage to give it to her back then though…"

She watched as Karl gently took the small flower from his comrade's hand.

"I-I..."

It appeared that he had wanted to say more… so much more. The look in his eyes though had changed. The appearance of content had come onto his face.

"Th-thank you. Thank you both."

With Karl at the verge of tears, and Maho barely holding any better. Muller slowly lowered his head to rest against the folded jacket that Karl had laid under him earlier.

His breathing then stopped, his pulse silent, and his body gone limp. His eyes were still partially open, but the light that had always shown behind them was nowhere to be seen.

Next to her, Karl still held onto his still hand. The reassuring smile he held onto had long since broken.

"Muller? MULLER!? Come on buddy talk to me. Please don't do this. Muller!?..."

Maho tried to talk, but nothing came out. She sat there blankly as Karl shook at the body of their former comrade. He was leaning onto Muller's chest while his knuckles turned white clenching onto his collar.

As the loader continued to sob, Maho slowly brought her hand down onto Muller's still face to close his eyes.

"Karl… We should go."

With bloodshot eyes, he weakly nodded before forcing himself up.

Maho reached into each one of his pockets to remove anything of personal value before standing back up. She couldn't help but notice the unusually quick pace that Karl took ahead of her while leaving building behind them.

Neither of them said a word till they both stopped well outside.

"You forgot this."

Reaching out her hand she passed him his jacket back. He simply nodded as he dressed himself.

He then however surprised her by reaching into his shirt pocket to hand her the edelweiss.

"You take it. Talking to girls about any kind of emotional stuff was never my thing, let alone with something like this."

Having been given the small flower by her last remaining subordinate, Maho looked down to it lying on her palm.

A small note and sketchbook, a framed set of family photographs, a number of received and unsent letters, a small silver locket, and last but not least the edelweiss.

'I wonder how long he spent to find this. I spent hours looking for one before giving up to find it in the restaurant at the hotel we were staying in when I was younger.' She thought back to the ecstatic face Miho made when she gave it to her; along with the little lie she made about how she found it.

'This one however still has yet to reach its intended owner. I just hope I'll be able to get it there.'

"Ah, lieutenant… You wouldn't happen to know where we have to go now. Do you?"

Maho looked around. While she was given a set of instructions for redeployment, without either a map or even proper understanding of the area that they had only so recently arrived in she had no idea as to where to go to.

"Not at the moment. Though there has to be someone around here that would know that information."

By the corner or the block she could see two MPs directing a stopped Renault AHS.

"Come on Corporal." The two of them started off with another man trailing behind a little bit later.

"Westernkrieger!"

She looked round to see a messily dressed soldier fast approaching with a captured PPSH hanging out of his hand. It took her a few moments to recognize him as a commissioned officer, let alone as the captain from earlier that morning.

"Captain!"

"Oh thank God you're ok! Had you gotten yourself killed on day one under my watch, the Major would've sent me on night patrol for a month." Upon stopping in front of him he seemed to have released a sigh of relief.

"Might I ask where your remaining crew and vehicle is lieutenant?"

Straightening out slouched shoulders, Maho looked forward towards her superior. "I'll have to report the loss of my tank, along with three crew members to enemy action." The words felt so much more natural to her than she would have liked them to be.

She didn't know what to expect. The one she got however was definitely not it.

"Hmmm. Well then. Seeing as that is the case, I think it even better of me to have found you in one piece more or less."

"Why would that be anyway?"

From his previously casual attitude, the captain's expression turned serious as he stood before them.

"I'm going to go straight to the point then. I need infantry commanders."

"I'm not qualified."

"Well to bad! The new lieutenant they sent got his head blown off this morning, and even NCOs have been running low in number."

"Sir." Maho started. She looked back towards the hospital. "I should head back to make sure they take care of Muller." Whether or not he had been added to the pile, she couldn't just simply leave him as they did.

"You shall report to regimental immediately. As soon as the regiment reorganizes itself, I'll make sure he gets properly buried. In the meantime, I still have my own men to see to inside the hospital."

"Yes! Thank you Captain..."

She tried to recall his name from that morning only to come to a blank. He brought his hand up behind his head.

"Ehh. I'm not good with names either. And in a place like this, I wouldn't advise making too much effort to improve on that either. The name's Glaas though for the convenience. Now if you two follow me."

Waking a little further away from the hospital, the captain lead them to a parked Krupp Protze as a number of other men and officers were climbing onboard. "That transport will take you there. I'll meet back with you lieutenant at company within the next few hours with instruction."

"Yes sir!"

Setting themselves inside the transport before the last available space was taken. Everyone was silent. Maho looked to her side to see Karl simply looking towards the dirty wood flooring.

The memories of her former crewmembers flowed slowly materialized. Each one starting with the very worst qualities they had as she first knew them, before moving towards their very best that she had become acquainted with both through training, then deployment.

It didn't take long however before the first images of death had made themselves into the mix. She needed something to distance herself from her present train of thought, if only for a short while.

Images of home were quickly superseded by Muller's last words. And even thoughts of Miho at that time had brought her nothing but feelings of shame. Her head aked as she continued to think; eventually though she found what she was looking for, thought it was far from what she had expected. The Russian girl within the abandoned cottage came to mind, seeing those blue eyes meeting her own.

So many question still lingered in her head regarding the details around that unusual event; and given how it went despite the circumstances, she could even say she wouldn't mind seeing her again on less pressing circumstances.

The likelihood of her running into that girl again however was rather remote at best anyway. \

Perhaps one day she'll tell Miho about the whole thing if she promised to keep it a secret. She couldn't imagine that anyone else that she knew would find the tale any bit amusing to say the least.

Feeling somewhat better, she looked up towards the grey stained sky above before turning back down towards Karl still hunched over while staring at the floor.

"Hey Karl. You doing alright."

Lightly murmuring something to himself as he blankly looked up towards nothing in particular.

"Yeah. Though I was hoping for at least a quick day off after all the shit we've been through."

"Tough luck comrade. But I don't think fortune has been smiling on any of us today."


The sun had long since lowered beyond the horizon though the sounds of distant fight had continued with little change in intensity.

After hours of asking from one mismatched unit after another, Nonna had finally found her assigned company among the ruins of a store building overlooking red square. With her new rifle slung over her shoulder, she started down into the basement.

Though she had known a good many of the men in the first number of rooms, there very few of them that she recognized following the ordeal of what for many had only been their first day in combat. Indeed when she had finally saw her own friends sitting together, she had very nearly left the room they were in to continue looking elsewhere.

Alex, Kimek, and Vlad.

Sitting against the wall with a number of others; their uniforms were caked in mud and dust, and their faces paled under the filth that covered them.

Laying on the floor laid the first substantial amount of food that she had seen in over the last two days. Left completely untouched between them.

Without any sign of them noticing her presence, she sat onto one of the makeshift benches that they were sitting upon. Simply sitting through the lifelessness of the room, she waited a good minute or two before clearing her throat.

"Nonna…?"

The first one she saw raise his head was Vlad uttering her name in a whisper. Kimek rose his head as well, though Alex remained as he was.

"Come, sit! You just missed the ration handout. Not the best or warmest meal you ever had, but the first few bites of it is actually not entirely terrible if you don't think about it." She crouched down against the wall next to them as another soldier scooted over to give her a little more room.

The atmosphere seemed to lighten up if just a little. While she was never much of a conversationalist, having the actual time to casually talk with someone for the first time that day was actually felt good to her as opposed to what she could only have described at the time a suspenseful episode at best with the German officer hours before.

However, there was still something that didn't seem right. Their complexions had become almost polar opposite of their usual selves as she had known them for quite some time. But even more than that, the absence of the others that had come from their village along with them was in itself sounding off alarm bells.

They had always made great effort to remain in close proximity to each other from the moment they had first climbed into those covered transports all those months ago. To have well over half of their village squad be nowhere to be seen all of a sudden just seemed, wrong.

"Where is everyone?"

Alex raised his head towards her, void of all emotion. What little sense of

"This is everyone Nonna."


Author's Note

Well here we go the first day in the city complete! Only took me 2 and a half years to cover it. Don't say it! Now Though I get to do more time jumps to get things going faster, Hurray!

Did a few miniscule fixes on chapter seven because that one was has been the bane of my existence for quite some time, and will continue to be so though not so much now.

Have a good one everyone!